7 Stresses That Only Parents of Teen Drivers Understand
Why Having Your Kid Behind the Wheel Can Be Truly Anxiety-Inducing
If you’re a parent with a new driver living under your roof, one thing’s for certain: You’re going to stress about it big time.
Seriously, how did it come to be that your child – once dependent on you for almost all their basic survival functions – is now ready to bop around town free as they please behind the wheel of a massive rolling hunk of metal filled with liquid accelerant?
You fear the logistics of this situation, the lurking danger and of course your teen’s total lack of fear.
Well, don’t worry about your worry. Experts say it’s totally normal and basically comes with your likely innate parental inability to let go.
Put simply: “We worry about not being able to control what happens when they are behind the wheel,” says Susan Borison, founder and editor of the award-winning Your Teen Magazine.
But, of course, this general worry spawns a whole fleet of ultra-specific micro worries. In no particular order, here are some you may find yourself facing as your own almost-adult hits the road.
1. Your Kid Getting Hurt
So, your baby is all grown up and ready to get their drive on. As a mama or papa bear of the human variety, it would be pretty weird if you didn’t worry about their safety.
Of course, this fear is largely warranted, as the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among teens aged 16-19 than any other age group.
So while anxiety may be an unavoidable offshoot of the idea of your offspring driving, you can mitigate your concern by talking to them about safe driving and helping them be confident behind the wheel.
Elaine Taylor-Klaus, a parenting coach and CEO of parenting resource Impact ADHD, urges parents to proceed with caution when it comes to our kids and driving.
“We need to listen to them. If they’re not ready, don’t push too hard,” Taylor-Klaus says.
2. Your Kid Accidentally Hurting Someone Else
OK, so you’ve worried yourself to death about your kid’s safety. But what about the other drivers on the road?
With those pesky stats piled up against you, the possibility of your teen causing an accident that could injure fellow motorists is real.
With years of experience as a family therapist and as Director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, Raffi Bilek has unique insight into the anxiety that driving teens can cause their families.
“For the first time, the kid now has access to a machine that can cause major damage,” Raffi says. “Nobody wants to see their child cause injury (or worse) to someone else.”
Again, talk to your kids about the dangers of distracted driving -- and make sure to provide them with as much valuable insight as you can to be the best drivers they can be.
3. Smartphone Addiction
In our teen days, distracted driving meant cruising down the road while trying to squeeze a Big Gulp into one of the completely inadequate cup holders in your mom’s minivan.
But now, it’s a constantly tittering smartphone that you worry is taking your child’s attention off the road.
It may be no surprise to learn that teens are leading the charge when it comes to being attached to tech. In fact, a poll from Common Sense Media showed that a full half of teens felt they were addicted to their mobile devices.
Taylor-Klaus stresses the importance of setting clear boundaries with your driving teens.
“Have a zero-tolerance policy for anything that is overtly dangerous: too many friends in the car (whatever your agree on), any substance use at all before driving, phones for texting, or music while behind the wheel,” she says.
If you’ve been on Youtube lately, you’ll find an impressive stockpile of footage of the “teen swan-dives off a garage onto a mattress” variety.
And if you think teens engage in risky behavior, you’re probably not imagining it. Whether it’s dangerous driving, overdoing it with alcohol, or even engaging in risky sexual behavior, studies show that adolescents and young adults take more risks than any other age group.
So, yeah, having your kid behind the wheel of a 4,000-pound machine can feel… concerning.
But Nancy Reynolds, founder of the website Raising Teens Today, brings us back to that big “C”: communication.
“The more we talk with our kids, share our concerns and lay down our rules, the more likely they’ll be to take the responsibility as a driver seriously,” Reynolds says.
5. The ‘L’ Word: Logistics
When your big, crazy family is being pulled in a million different directions, managing the potentially conflicting wants and personalities is only half the battle.
The other half comes down to simply having enough wheels to get everyone where they need to be.
Amy Carney is a leadership parenting coach and author of the critically acclaimed book Parent on Purpose. With multiple driving teens in her home, she understands the unique headaches of scheduling limited cars for busy lives.
“It’s challenging allowing them to figure out sharing the two vehicles they have to use between the four of them, all of whom have after-school activities and jobs,” Carney told Fair.
6. Taking Out a Giant Car Loan
Of course, there’s a solution to not having enough cars for your family. You just buy another one, right?
Unfortunately, getting a safe car that you can rely on means spending the better part of a Saturday at a car lot and coming back buried in debt from a hefty loan. And with the average car loan now stretching well past five years, that can leave you stuck paying for the same car long after you stop needing it.
That’s why more parents are turning to Fair, which lets you access a wide range of pre-owned cars from reputable dealers in your area and drive the one you want for as long as you choose. And the best part? You can handle the whole process on your phone – from picking your car, getting approved and signing for it with your finger. There’s no negotiation, loan or even physical paperwork. It’s pretty much the Amazon of cars.
All Fair cars also come with routine maintenance, roadside assistance and a limited warranty.
Disclaimer: In order to be eligible for a Fair vehicle, you must be at least 18 years old. And while Fair does not permit co-signers, you can always get the Fair car for yourself while passing your hand-me-down to your resident locker-opener. Seriously, that doesn’t make you a bad parent.
7. Balancing Independence and Safety
Sure, you want your child to be able to spread their wings and fly. But you’re still uncertain about watching them drop from the nest right into the driver’s seat of a car.
Dr. Tamar Blank, a licensed psychologist and founder of Riverdale Psychology, says these conflicting desires can be stressful for parents.
“Parents often find it challenging to find a healthy balance of giving their child autonomy, while also teaching safety and the importance of following the laws around driving,” she says. “It can lead parents and children to find themselves in a power struggle.”